Picks and Pans Review: 'Are You There Alone?'

updated 03/01/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/01/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Suzanne O'Malley

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Asked by a prison psychiatrist how she felt after killing her five small children, Andrea Yates had a chilling answer: "I am Satan." As investigative reporter O'Malley details how Yates methodically drowned her offspring one by one in a bathtub in 2001, it's hard to get past the monstrousness of her act. But O'Malley lays out the case that Yates is also a victim, a suicidal depressive who didn't get the medical help she needed until it was too late.

The author is far from impartial. Covering the story for The New York Times and other publications, she became so sympathetic to Yates that she helped defense lawyers debunk a prosecution witness who claimed Yates had planned the murders, a tactic that may have saved Yates from the death penalty. Still, O'Malley writes compellingly, especially in her complex portrait of Yates's husband, Rusty. Vilified in the media as an uncaring spouse, he has stood by his wife, who is serving a life term in Texas. "I will continue to love her," he told O'Malley. "Just because there's this horrible tragedy doesn't mean somebody has to hang for it."


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